It's open day on the campus - which means "high school" "juniors" and "seniors" are touring the campus. Generally, there are porters (guards) at the entrance to every building (this started just a few years ago) who raise eyebrows and ask for identification and purpose before allowing one entry. Since I don't yet have identification, this is a fantastic opportunity to go wandering…

Engineering has a number of tag boards up with students wandering amidst. Since I never actually did a college visit, it's fun to see them all at it. Wandering outside and up a grassy knoll, I discover one life's little unfairnesses: their physics building is a "castle". Inside, though, I fail to discover the requisite vats of boiling oil and catapults; in fact, the tower doesn't even really seem accessible. But, as part of their promotional material, they're advertising a Joint Honours degree in Physics & Philosophy *joy*.
Naturally, there's some of the quirkiness we'd expect from those who study quarks. Sharks swimming in the ceiling and a dowsing rod to be used as a back-up if you "cannot find interstellar water with the 22GHz radio telescope" - the rod is "intentionally larger than usual to enhance its ability to detect water at astronomical distances".
Walking through an old cosmic-ray balloon launch-site, I discover they have a whole group devoted to studying the health effects of high-voltage transfer lines. On the right you'll see brain-shaped argon tubes lit solely by the electromagnetic fields of high-voltage power lines.

When I was younger, my mother told me never to stare into the sun, but, going up on the roof, I find myself doing exactly that through a narrow-band telescope, which somehow makes it alright (sorry, Mom). 93 million miles away, 8 minutes in the past, a solar flare bursts from the sun's surface - a million degrees, ten Earths high, traveling at unbelievable speeds - it appears as a mere wisp of dark red. The science-guy next to me says it's the most exciting thing they've seen all day; it's strange how quickly one becomes desensitised to the glory of the universe.


View From The Physics Building

Swinging by the Philosophy Department (or do I?), I discover (but how do I know I've discovered?) that it's consumed (or has it?) an entire Victorian mansion (but what is a mansion?). I can't see through the windows (it's like a monad), but I can go inside (oddly enough), where, again, I find my free will reigned in (by some evil genius?). So reigned, there's a categorical imperative to advance down a hallway to the back of the house where they've built (assuming there's a past) a more-modern expansion (assuming there's anything at all). Along the way, there's a door: if the five people heading towards me go through first, I'll be offended, but, if I go through they'll be offended. The situation could be salvaged by shoving a fat man in the door so no one can pass through, but, intuitively, that's wrong. We take a utilitarian approach and I converse with a prof: trapped in the undecidability of a second-order language, I panic and try to add axioms, but he speaks the Goedel sentence and I find our conversations still incomplete. Trusting my emotions, I float out the window as a people-seed.

I swing by Well's Hall next. Designed in fourteen days with help from "the Almighty", it's the tower that I found myself heading for when I first arrived. Inside, it's spectacular… and home to the Earth Sciences department.





After this, I sit in for a few minutes on the "come to our school" talk in the Great Hall, inhaling the bitter scent of my yogurt smoothie and thinking that I'm already here. I swing by the library before going back to work and fantasise about climbing around on the ceiling.
Arriving back at my building, I discover that Churchill had not only great strength of will, but great strength of body as well.

Just down the hall from my work area there's a big room where they stash graduate students to ferment. After three or fours years, they take them out again and, if all's gone well, they've been converted from a pile of foot-stamped grapes into a fine wine. About fifteen people work in this room and they, along with those from another room, invite me out to dinner. So, in a large, turbulent group, we flow down the hillside to the ZeroDegree bar. Along the way, I make a discovery: there is one Australian, one Chinaian, one Englishian, and one Americian - the other fifteen or so are Italian. Oh, and the Chinese, Australian, and English fellows all know how to speak Italian.They collectively promise me that they'll speak English (our one common language) so as to include me. As I order my Caramalised Pear and Gorgonzola pizza, we do have a lovely little chat; however, as the night goes on and I drink more water and they more beer, they speak proportionately less English till finally we don't understand each other at all. But the incomprehensible things we're saying are hilarious and more and more we're laughing.

It becomes late, though. As we leave I discover that this was the good-bye meal for a third or so of their two volleyball teams. Oh, the things I don't know. Afterwards, the walk home is long, but I find the right way the first time.




Check if this is a private message just for Richard:


Jen - Monday, July 06, 2009 at 12:21:43 (PDT)
I WANT that pizza it sounds amazing!!!!

Mom - Tuesday, July 21, 2009 at 15:44:24 (PDT)
Oh, the interesting groups of people you meet!!
How was the pear & gorgonzola pizza?

Richard - Sunday, August 02, 2009 at 16:17:50 (PDT)
It was rather tasty, though gorgonzola isn't my favourite cheese. I've definitely added it to my mental list of pizza recipes.